Senior biology major and Pre-Health student Joan Fernandez has been highly involved on the TCU campus throughout her four years as an undergraduate, and her accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. The Chancellor’s Scholar is an active member of TCU’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a national honor society for pre-professional health science students, and also serves on the philanthropy board for a social sorority. Fernandez is Community Chair of the TCU Triathlon club, and actively involved in research studying the mercury contamination of ponds and surrounding terrestrial communities at the Lyndon B. Johnson grasslands through the Aquatic Ecology Research Lab.
Most recently, the honors student was selected as the 2015 Senior Scholar for the Department of Biology, an accomplishment that not only highly reflects her academic achievements in the department, but also recognizes her research involvement and relationships built with her professors over the years.
Fernandez decided to attend TCU following her observations of the tight knit campus community on campus during a visit. She also knew that the level of academic rigor at TCU would challenge her to achieve her goals. In addition, she is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship, the most prestigious full-tuition TCU scholarship, allowing her to focus her energy on studies and extracurricular activities.
Fernandez regards the most rewarding part of her time at TCU to her involvement within the community, particularly the opportunities she has had within the TCU Triathlon Club. As the club’s Community Chair, Fernandez helped spearhead the TCU Bullfrogs Partner program at the YMCA Benbrook, which encourages healthy living in children ages 5-13 through physical activity. She enjoys participating in sports she is passionate about, and sharing this passion with children to promote healthy lifestyles.
She believes the greatest strength of the Department of Biology to be the faculty, who foster teacher-student relationships and interactive learning environments, including the opportunity for undergraduate research. She notes that all of her professors within the Department have been nothing short of amazing, but Matt Chumchal, associate professor and Director of the Pre-Health Professions Institute, and Ray Drenner, professor and department chair, have been particularly influential during her time at TCU. The two have served as her mentors in the lab for her senior honors research project and have supported her throughout her time at TCU.
“Without their guidance, I would not be where I am today,” she said. “I have formed relationships with mentors that will last a lifetime, and they have helped me at every step of the way along my TCU career. They go above and beyond to help their students in whatever means necessary.”
Fernandez notes that the ability to be actively involved in labs at an undergraduate level is rare and distinguishes TCU from other universities, allowing student to experience unique hands-on learning opportunities. During her own undergraduate career, she was able to develop her own thesis, allowing her to learn about the research process and develop problem-solving skills.
For students interested in pursuing a career in medicine, Fernandez encourages them to follow their passion. While the workload is demanding, the result of pursuing one’s passion makes it worth the effort. She also recommends students gain real world experience during their educational career.
“Get involved in the medical field, either through volunteer work, scribing, or shadowing,” Fernandez advises. “Getting to surround yourself with individuals you aspire to be can keep you motivated towards your ultimate goal of becoming a physician.”
By: Tori Campbell, CSE communications intern